to think this is not normal for 5 year olds?

(48 Posts)
WaferMoon Thu 19-Sep-13 11:17:04

I teach dancing classes - mostly older kids and adults - but recently started teaching a group of 5-6 year olds. There are 6 of them in the class, all girls. So not a large group.

These kids are all in school so presumably are used to waiting, listening etc. However, I can't seem to "control" them at all. The first lesson was absolute chaos - kids running everywhere and not listening to me. I realise they were probably excited as it was the first lesson. The second week started off the same, so I realised we needed more structure than I thought. I used every trick I had up my sleeve - reward stickers, sitting on their own "spots" until I called them for their turn, everything I could think of. Marginally better but still mostly behaviour management and little actual dancing. Several of the girls said "no" to whatever I asked them to do. I am very jolly and usually good at getting them to try. By week 4 things were no better so I got a bit stricter - telling them firmly to come back to the line when they wandered off, reminding that stickers were only for the girls who listened. I had 2 kids in tears telling me they wanted Mummy.

I don't have as much experience with this age group as with older girls, but I've had 3 5 year olds myself and don't remember them being this difficult! Am I expecting too much or do I have a particularly difficult bunch of dancers?!

canweseethebunnies Thu 19-Sep-13 14:33:54

Bump - because I'm interested in responses (I only have a four year old, so don't know). Also sounds like you could do with some tips!

OHforDUCKScake Thu 19-Sep-13 14:38:08

Where are their mums during the lesson?

YouTheCat Thu 19-Sep-13 14:40:10

They should be able to manage to follow simple instructions at that age and also behave. Tbh the 5 year olds where I work are often better behaved than the older children.

How much longer are the dance classes for? Would it be viable to talk to the parents about your concerns that the children are not getting the most out of the classes due to their behaviour?

If you are getting back chat, that is bad. I'd be mortified if my kids had been so disrespectful.

OHforDUCKScake Thu 19-Sep-13 14:42:03

Have you tried firmly saying if you cannot behave then sit out until you can. And sitting them away from the group?

daftdame Thu 19-Sep-13 14:42:06

Why not build in the more structured stuff gradually, when they get more interested in the dancing?

If there is a lot of waiting around and they don't know how good the actual dancing is going to be there will be a lot of getting bored with little anticipation? They are still very young.

So can you not start in a big group and get them to follow you with some very fun music and games first? The gradually slow the activity down. Then when they begin to settle down build in more individual pieces.

kim147 Thu 19-Sep-13 14:42:53

Shouldn't be - they should be used to following instructions at school.

How do you start your lessons? Structure and getting them active is really important.

I hate teaching PE but I know that it's important for them to be doing stuff. It should not need stickers.

Thepowerof3 Thu 19-Sep-13 14:43:34

That doesn't sound right for a 5 year old, my 4 year old doesn't behave like that in her dance lessons

loveisagirlnameddaisy Thu 19-Sep-13 14:47:04

My daughter is nearly 4 and goes to ballet in a class with about 20 girls of similar ages (3 to 6) and they all behave when they're told to. A couple might get distracted or talk to their friends but they pay attention when the teacher tells them to. She is on her own with two teenage helpers and can manage to control them. I would have thought one adult to six girls would be more than enough.

Is it a new class or have they been taught by someone else before? I'd have a word with their parents. Sounds like very poor behaviour if they're saying 'no' to your requests.

bamboobutton Thu 19-Sep-13 14:47:07

do these girls actually want to be there or are they living their mums(or dads) dreams of being a dancer?

I remember behaving badly at ballet lessons because I did not want to do it, I would have been 7ish.

MrsMelons Thu 19-Sep-13 14:59:30

I have seen lots of 4/5 YOs in dance classes over the years and I have never seen them behave like this, maybe the odd child but usually they leave pretty quickly. I actually started dancing at age 2, proper formal lessons and there were several 2-3 YOs in the class and they didn't behave like that either.

It is hard to say whether the structure of the class is not right for that age but from what I have seen the children are rarely left waiting for their turn and do most things as a group, at the end if they have learnt a routine they may then do it in 2s or 3s.

DeWe Thu 19-Sep-13 15:24:50

Doesn't sound right. Our ballet teacher starts at age 2yo. The youngest class is about 15 2-3yr olds. You get the odd one who doesn't want to join in and watches, but they basically do as they are told the whole time.
But they are generally listening and engaged the whole time pretty much.

If they'd gradually started this, I;d say it is something you are doing-perhaps setting the class to easy/hard. As they came into do it then there seems to be more of a problem with them.

Perhaps stickers throughout might help. "Who can point your toes nicely? Well done A beautiful have a sticker. B that's lovely have a sticker..."

hiddenhome Thu 19-Sep-13 15:27:51

Blimey, we never had this stickers for everything lark when I was growing up. If an adult told you to do something, you did it hmm

Parents are too reluctant to instill discipline in their children any more. I see it at school. They'll all pandered to and mollycoddled.

Mama1980 Thu 19-Sep-13 15:28:11

My ds is. 5 attends 2 dance classes a week of about 20 one formal one not and they always behave in fact I can't believe how ordered they all are. The teacher gives them all a sticker at the end and it's quite fast paced for them. Ds loves it

pixiepotter Thu 19-Sep-13 16:31:28

I am a gymnastics coach and if they won't do as they are told, I make them sit out for a while.You have to be very firm and consistent.If you have one 'bad'un' they lead the others astray!

exoticfruits Fri 20-Sep-13 06:54:30

They sound as if they are not ready for it and that they are just there because their mothers wanted it. You shouldn't give stickers just to follow instruction- they are there to follow instructions.
If you only have 6 I would be inclined to terminate it, tell the parents they are not ready. Next time you try that age be strict from the start and lay down your expectations.

WaferMoon Sat 21-Sep-13 11:24:33

Sorry for the delay in coming back - when I posted this thread it didn't show up in AIBU for some reason so I thought something wasn't working, then came back today and saw the replies.

Thanks for the tips. I could give stickers throughout the lesson, but I would have thought one sticker at the end of a 30 minute class should be enough.

I'm relieved to hear that some of you have dcs of this age or younger who successfully participate in dancing classes, and it's not just me not managing them well! However I'm prepared to admit some of the problem might be my relative lack of experience with this age group.

The structure I use is - a fun warm up to music, supposedly following me but flexibility to dance around their own way if they want to. Then into a circle or line for some basic steps/moves. The first week I tried doing it all together so they wouldn't have to wait, but it was a disaster so since then I've had them sitting on the floor until I call them. There are only 6 of them so they're not waiting more than a minute for their turn. After that we do some "around the room" moves, incorporating games like "follow the leader". We end with free dancing to songs they know like Disney tunes, or we play musical statues.

The mums wait outside, I don't want them in the room. When they ask me how their child did, I tell them honestly if they didn't want to join in or didn't listen at times. I don't know if they all want to be dancing but the mums say they do. The ones who say no to me, I remind them about the stickers which sometimes works. Sometimes they opt out altogether and sit at the side. I tell them "we don't say no in here" - that's when one of them started to cry. confused

pixiepotter good to know you have to be firm - I will plod on!

FriendlyLadybird Sat 21-Sep-13 11:39:15

I'm very surprised. I peek in through the windows of my 5yo DD's class occasionally and they are all behaving wonderfully, learning formal technique.

I did discover, when organising games at her birthday party in January, that I could get 20 4-5yos eating out of my hand -- but only if I was very, very high energy myself. We didn't do any one thing for too long, and no one did any waiting or sitting out.

Maybe you're allowing them a little too much flexibility? As I said, DD's class is pretty formal. They do a warm-up in a circle, and then do other steps following the teacher -- absolutely no dancing around by themselves.

quoteunquote Sat 21-Sep-13 11:54:06

Get some older children who they can follow, they sound self conscious.

WaferMoon Sat 21-Sep-13 12:45:03

Older helpers is a good idea actually.

High energy is right - I am exhausted afterwards! I also agree that they need a lot of structure. The only planned dancing around part is at the end. They just constantly resist it which surprised me - I remember my dd's 5th birthday party with about 15 kids and it being far easier than expected. They were all at school and there was a massive difference from the 4th birthday party as regards kids opting out, getting upset etc.

Any ideas for managing structured tasks better? I've been insisting they sit in line or join the circle but they wriggle out of holding hands, run off the second I put them on their spot and if I try to adjust the music for a second I've lost the whole lot of them! One girl simply does nothing I ask until I threaten no sticker - she just stands there and stares at me. She does understand as she does it perfectly for the sticker. She arrives each week with a nanny who doesn't speak English so I've not been able to talk to the mum. Another girl says no to everything - last week I firmly told her to come back into the line as she couldn't hear me all the way over there - cue crying and "I want my mummy!" Good grief.

The other 4 are better but led astray by the 2 monkeys! Any more tips deeply appreciated!

ICantGoOverItICantGoUnderIt Sat 21-Sep-13 13:40:37

It sounds to me like they got into bad habits in the first couple of weeks and sort of decided that they could do what they like at dancing. I've seen it before with student teachers at school who don't want to be tough when faced with challenging behaviour because they want the children to like them and have fun. It can then be a little overwhelming for children of this age when the student does start to clamp down - they thought they had things sussed and you're changing the rules, hence the crying.

What I would do now is, above all, make a big fuss of any desirable behaviour there and then. Lots of verbal praise followed by a sticker, even if it's interrupting what you're doing. "Jessica came straight to the front when I asked her! Well done Jessica, that makes me so happy! I think you deserve a sticker for doing what I asked straight away!" Forget about stickers at the end of the lesson. They're with you for such a short time they need to see straight away what type of behaviour you want from them. Sadly, these days stickers are not really that exciting to children and I imagine at the end of the lesson when they're not going to see you again for a week, they can pretty much shrug off not getting a sticker at the end. But if they do something well and can go out and say "Look mum, I got a sticker from Miss Moon because I was sitting nicely!" then it might start to sink in for everyone. That way it is also about praise for desirable behaviour and leaves out any sense of punishment for negative behaviour if someone doesn't get one.

In this vein, I would also try praising others if one child is not cooperating. If Molly tries to wander off or is wriggling about, literally name check everyone else who is doing as asked. "Jessica's standing nicely, so is Amy, well done girls. I see Chloe standing very nicely too..." Sometimes this can be enough to pull the wanderer back into line.

If one child is resolute and will not cooperate despite praising others, I would give one chance "Molly, you need to come and join in sensibly or you will have to sit out." If she cooperates, a low key "Good choice Molly," is enough (or they will all be tearing off so you make a fuss of them!). If she continues, be swift and firm, take her hand if necessary and take her to sit at the side. If she protests, calmly say "You need to sit here until you can join in sensibly." If she counters, "Show me you can be sensible by sitting here nicely." And return to the other, ignore any further protests or crying. Be as sweet, happy and enthusiastic with the others as you can. Make Molly think you're having fun so she wants to join in. When she does sit nicely for a minute or so invite her to return with no praise for sitting nicely. "Are you ready to join in sensibly now?" Be consistent and follow through. It would be nice if positive behaviour management worked every time but some children need to see that there can be consequences if they misbehave.

I hope this isn't patronising. Perhaps you've done all this and you've struck it unlucky with the combination of children in you're class. I have sometimes found myself get into a sort of negative groove with a class and need to pull myself back by reminding myself to praise, praise, praise and act quickly on any outright defiance or rudeness.

Turniptwirl Sat 21-Sep-13 13:47:23

I know having them all doing things together is chaotic but it does sound like the waiting around isn't helping.

thegraduand Sat 21-Sep-13 13:51:23

My 4 year old has done ballet for a few years and I've not seen classes behave like this. There was only a helper in the class for 3 yr olds, and never parents in the room.

Things I've seen her teachers do

- only a sticker at the end of the class (small cheap ones, but they seem to love them)
- ignoring children who run off, making the class more fun for those who are involved
- almost all tasks involve all children, or giving each one something different to do to keep them busy e.g. mini-circuits
- if it gets too bad, send the child out of the class to the parent until they calm down

ICantGoOverItICantGoUnderIt Sat 21-Sep-13 13:52:48

I've just retread one of your posts, perhaps you should insist they copy you at the start instead of giving freedom to do their own moves. The mixed message her might make them think they can opt in our out at other points in the lesson. When it's free dancing at the end, make it very clear you want to see their own moves and they don't have to copy you.

Also perhaps a little positive peer assessment when they're doing their individual bits would engage the children who are sitting watching. After Molly has finished her individual part, ask "Chloe, what did you see Molly do really well just now?" Or just ask for hands up if someone's got something nice to say about Molly's dancing. After a couple of times when they catch on, they are usually very keen to share something nice about their friends.

I'll stop now, hope my rambling are of some help.

Worriedkat Sat 21-Sep-13 13:56:24

My sons classes have a 'star of the week' large sticker at the end, smaller stickers for all the other kids. Incentive to do their best to get star of the week (rotate who actually gets it).

Can you have another adult in the class next week, not one of the mums but someone strict who you can say is a helper? Might encourage them to knuckle down and listen.

WaferMoon Sat 21-Sep-13 14:05:55

ICant thank you, that's all really helpful. This is a big learning curve for me and although I do lots of praising and encouraging it's great to have more specific strategies. I've been asking them to tell me their favourite move at the end of the class before they get to do their own dancing, in the hope that they will do that move to the music.

I will attempt to have them all involved the whole time and see how it goes. The good thing is they all really want that sticker!

WaferMoon Sat 21-Sep-13 14:07:31

Star of the Week is a great idea. Not sure I can get another adult but I could definitely find one of my teenage dancers to help.

junkfoodaddict Sat 21-Sep-13 14:59:57

Tell their parents that unfortunately you think they may be wasting their money on dance classes because their little brat little girl(s) won't actually participate in the lesson or follow instructions and reccommend that maybe when they are a bit more mature to try again.
If their parents knew (certainly if it was mine!) there would be consequences and they would do as they are told next time. Or it could be that maybe parents are more interested in dance classes for them than the girls themselves? I say this because my 20 month old goes to a parent and toddler music and movement class at a local dance school (we do it because I work full time and wanted something that me and him can join in with) and some mums are obviously pushy and are thrusting their dreams and wishes on their toddlers. We have 18 months old come to a half hour class dressed as full blown balerinas for classes when we are pretending to be all sorts! Much to their own but these parents are anti-social (don't speak to anyone) and go absolutely bonkers at their 18-24 month olds if they don't follow instructions despite the instructor telling them that at that age it's perfectly normal for them to run about, join in and then 'leave'. My 20 month old decided to attach himself to my leg until the last 5 minutes. Anyhow, i am digressing.
The girls' behaviour is not normal and I am certain they wouldn't behave like that at school. Install discipline and tell parents. That's what us 'school teachers' do.

BakeOLiteGirl Sat 21-Sep-13 15:07:47

My sister pulled my niece out of a ballet class for this age run by a highly respected ballet school because of this. For some reason the children in this one class were so badly behaved with the teacher that she couldn't control them. They were all naice children too.

maddy68 Sat 21-Sep-13 15:12:27

Before the lesson. Establish yourself. You need a way of getting quiet and calm instantly. What I use in school is the hand up in the hair. When I put my hand up every child has to stand/sit with their Arm also raised high be totally silent Practice a few times before you start

Anyone nit playing the game will be asked to leave x

RedHelenB Sat 21-Sep-13 15:31:32

When my dds were 2 & 3 they would have a trophy given each week, that they had to return the nest week, for being the "best at" lkistening/joining in' trying hard whatever. Now the 2/3 year olds do Melody Bear but when my dds went it was good toes/naughty toes, skipping with fairy steps etc.
My son & his football practise though - watching them at 6 year olds they're like little bear cuns scuffling with each other at times! The best sessions for him are where they aren't near oine another, have a ball each & something simple to do that can be praised easily. Remember as well, if they've had school all week, they'll want to let off pressure away from it!

Consistency is key, don't be afraid to change what you are doing if they are "off task" & lots of positive feedback when they do as they're told.

DuckToWater Sat 21-Sep-13 15:33:47

I imagine many of them will be letting off steam after being very structured at school. Perhaps some of them don't want to be there at all, or ballet and tap is too rigid for them? Might be better doing gymnastics, football, martial arts or Irish dancing? With any of those they are too out of breath to be disruptive.

Worriedkat Sat 21-Sep-13 16:39:14

Just to add, the stickers all have stars on. Star of the week gets a BIG silver star sticker and the others have smaller stars of different colours.

There are always two adults in the class, one leader and one assistant. The teenage dancer who would like some work experience for their cv is a fab idea!

lougle Sat 21-Sep-13 17:22:16

You're struggling to keep control of 6 girls who are 5 years old. How about splitting them into pairs. One 'challenging' child with one 'non-challenging' child in each pair (remaining pair two non-challenging children).

You can have one pair doing the move you're teaching.
Two pairs doing the moves you taught last week.

Then, once one pair have been taught the new move:

One pair doing the move you've just taught
One pair learning the move from you
One pair doing the move you taught last week.

Then, once two pairs have been taught the new move:
One pair being taught
Two pairs practicing the new move.

strawberrie Sat 21-Sep-13 17:30:27

My DD goes to a gymnastic class which has up to 16 kids, boys and girls, with 2 coaches. I have been astounded and how well the children listen and follow their instructions.

They collect the children at the door of the gym, and get them to enter the room as a train, so each child has their hands on the child in front's shoulders. Whenever they move round the equipment, they move in the same train formation, so minimal chances for any to wander off/misbehave.

When they are listening to the coaches, they sit in "aeroplane" formation, which is like they are doing Oops upside your head grin.

Would something. Similar help keep their attention?

ExcuseTypos Sat 21-Sep-13 17:36:13

I too think you need to establish a quiet, calm environment from the start.

When my DDs were that age, they had to line up by the door waiting for the dance teacher. When she opened it she said 'hello girls' and they responded. She then asked them to go in and quietly find a space in the hall, where they say waiting for her.

I'd then start the lesson with them copying you, altogether.
Praise the ones following you and ignore those who aren't. Unless they start being disruptive. As the lesson goes on, introduce less structured things.

I would introduce some kind of 'stop and look at me'. I've seen teachers using bells. When they are shaken everyone must stop and look at the teacher. That will get their attention and focus back on you.

Good luck!

gotthemoononastick Sat 21-Sep-13 17:40:39

Spare a thought for my 5 year old self, a long time ago,in dance boarding school,already doing barre work! Madame was greatly respected (and feared),but I simply HAD to dance breathing..Maybe they do not really want to do it?

youarewinning Sat 21-Sep-13 18:18:11

I'd go for all dance together and ignore the ones misbehaving.

So "everybody stand on a spot, copy me we are going to warm up our muscles" Put on music, start warm up, praise the ones doing as you asked. Then move spots into a line/ circle, repeat and rinse.
At end of session give a sticker to those who did as you asked, no threat of no sticker or reminder they'll get one. Say nothing to those misbehaving, they'll soon work out how to get your attention - or leave. Either way it's win win grin

mumofweeboys Sat 21-Sep-13 20:48:04

What about going to some other dance classes that are held for that age group or offering to help, might let you get a feel how other people run their classes

Viviennemary Sat 21-Sep-13 20:57:24

I agree with helpers. There are six of them and only one of you. Also rewards and praise. I also think a very disciplined and straightforward set of exercises to begin with might be a good idea. And then more looser fun creative things towards the end of the lesson. Could you put chalk marks on the floor for them to stand at. Very spaced out!

unlucky83 Sat 21-Sep-13 21:11:47

I think you might have to toughen up a bit - and even though this makes me sound ancient - think that some parents let their children get away with too much...encourage them even ...and even though it is a voluntary activity if they are disruptive it spoils it for all the other children in the class...
I've just seen a 5 yo Rainbow refuse to join in with the activities - she said she had bought her own activity and her mum said she could do that if she didn't want to do what the group were doing shock!!!!
She was told to go and stand to one side - she stood there for a second - and then walked across the room to sit on a bench, the leader said no she was to stand where she had been put - the 5 yo then refused to stand up ...
Leader was (rightly) obviously cross and told her in no uncertain terms that she could either stand where she had been told to, join in or they would get her mum to come and collect her...child was really surprised that she had been spoken to like that ...
Child did stand to one side for a while and then gradually joined in ...
I thought she wouldn't be back the next week - but she was! (maybe the appeal of cheap childcare was too much for the mum!)

Skimty Sat 21-Sep-13 21:49:08

My daughter is 5 and in a ballet class. I believe that you should automatically get the respect of the children and this sounds very stressful for all of you. However, I know she finds improvisation incredibly difficult and the parts where you describe them dancing as they want she just can't do and any parts like that she sits out in her class. I suggest you don't let them improvise too much because if they feel uncomfortable this could mean they're messing around.

Jellybeanz1 Sat 21-Sep-13 21:57:03

My dds lessons at this age were fab. She ended up taking 3 different classes by the same ballet school, my ds even joined. They only had stickers at the end they went on a card so it also rewarded attendance. When I took over brownies I was shocked at the behaviour and introduced a toy owl they could take home each week (star of the week) You could have a ballet dancer/ Angelina? You have to teach them to listen before they can follow instructions. At this age my dc were doing clapping rhythms following the teacher they also loved one activity where they had to go to sleep on their backs then when the music changed had to be different toys coming to life. Reward good behaviour with attention. Keep starter and ending activities the same and structure short attainable goals. Invite parents of difficult children to observe and if its not for them ask to leave. Good luck.

Lagoonablue Sat 21-Sep-13 22:05:10

If they are all talking and not listening, I find standing on a box and saying 'look at me' a few times loudly helps. When they are all looking, start giving instructions. Fingers on lips helps too.

Good luck!

Snatchoo Sat 21-Sep-13 23:13:42

I am very very surprised.

I used to be one of those teenage dancer helpers and none of the children were ever like this! They were there because they wanted to be and it was a treat for them - occasionally Miss Julie could be a bit sharp if they were talking or whatever but in general, they were fab.

We did the fingers on lips things though when they started getting a bit too excited! I'd give that a go and then maybe talk to the parents? They are wasting their time and money if you are teaching children who don't want to be there and who are going to opt out of everything.

WaferMoon Sun 22-Sep-13 09:01:56

So many brilliant ideas - thanks everyone. Happy to hear people are surprised - I was too and glad it's not just me!

I will definitely introduce:

Fingers on lips to quieten down and listen.
Minimum free dancing - at the end they tell me their favourite move we've learnt that lesson so they can do that if they don't want to think of their own.
Even more praise for the ones who cooperate.

I agree that they are wound up after school and I expected some settling in to be needed but a few weeks in I thought we would be getting there by now. The class is not straight after school although one of the trickier ones always turns up with wet hair and smelling of chlorine so she is obviously doing a swimming class beforehand. It's a bit much in one day really, but not the child's fault.

mumofwildthings Sun 22-Sep-13 17:39:09

No offence, but I'm wondering if the class is a bit boring? My 5 year old loves her dancing lessons. Yes, she can be led into silliness by the class bad'un but she is usually compliant and engaged. They don't have the chance to muck about much because they are constantly moving. it is a dance class after all. I don't understand you want them to sit on their spots and take turns - can't then learn by doing? Waiting around and 5 year olds are not a happy combo. Definintely need to have a big burst of something energetic before changing the pace and getting them to calm down and listen/ watch a demo.

Oh and some 5 year old - like mine - have only done a week of school, so perhaps you are expecting too much?

mumofwildthings Sun 22-Sep-13 17:42:03

One other thing - have you told the parents that their children aren't behaving? I discovered that after a term of dancing my (then) 4 year old was the teacher's worst nightmare. I had no idea as she was normally great at home and at nursery. I was so cross that nobody had told me and I'd wasted a whole term's worth of fees on a child who was just being disruptive. I had words with my DD, made her apologise to the teacher and when she went back after Christmas she was a model pupil. A year on and she's the teacher's favourite. If the teacher hadn't told me I'd have had no idea, and I couldn't have helped to put it right

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